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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

IOC censures Beijing over motto

June 29, 2008

By Mure Dickie in Beijing
The Financial Times (UK)
June 28, 2008

The Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius - faster, higher,
stronger - may have been intended as an inspiration for athletes but
for this year's games hosts, China, it has also become a rallying
call to suppress dissent in Tibet.

At an Olympic torch relay ceremony in Lhasa last week, the Tibetan
capital's most senior Communist party official cited the 84-year-old
motto to exhort listeners to crack down on "splittist" supporters of
the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

"Encouraged by the Olympic spirit of 'Faster, Higher, Stronger',
Lhasa people of all nationalities will . . . resolutely smash the
Dalai clique's scheme to destabilise Tibet, sabotage the Olympics and
split the motherland," said the Lhasa party secretary Qin Yizhi.

Yet such open co-option of the Olympic spirit to support Chinese rule
in Tibet may prove a tactical mistake for Mr Qin and his comrades.

China has for months made calls for politics to be kept separate from
the games, a central theme of its opposition to critics' attempts to
link the Beijing games with issues such as Tibet, human rights abuses
and violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

Yet this week, it was Beijing that was censured by the International
Olympic Committee, whose charter bans any "political, religious or
racial propaganda" from all games areas. "We have written to Bocog
[the Beijing games organising committee] to remind them of the need
to separate sport and politics and to ask for their support in making
sure such situations do not arise again," the IOC said.

But the IOC has no power to carry out any type of sanction on Beijing.

"What is important to us is to express our position on this matter
and we have endeavoured to do that in our correspondence with the
organising committee," the IOC added.

Beijing remains unapologetic, however. Responding to the IOC letter,
a foreign ministry spokesman defended the remarks made by Mr Qin and
Zhang Qingli, Tibet's party chief.

"For the officials concerned to express their views on some issues is
not a politicisation of the Olympics," he said.

"It is a further effort to restore stability in the Tibet region and
to create a benign and stable environment for hosting the Olympic Games."

But Beijing is unlikely to mollify critics with its insistence that
it is political to criticise its policies on Tibet but not political
to defend them. Indeed, Mr Zhang's comments at the torch relay
included affirmations of loyalty to the leadership of President Hu
Jintao. Mr Qin hailed the "sagacious correctness" of communist
policies in Tibet and cited the "superiority of the socialist system"
in his speech.

The Beijing Olympics will hardly be the first to be marred by
disputes over politicisation, of course. The games' huge budget and
massive publicity power mean it can never be a simple sporting event.

And separating politics would be particularly difficult in China,
where the head of Bocog is also Beijing's party secretary. Party
offices have even been handling the often-restrictive arrangements
for foreign journalists covering Olympic torch events.
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